The Riverhead News-Review held its annual People of the Year reception this week, honoring those who were selected in our first issue of the new year.
You can read more about our 2012 People of the Year by clicking on the links below:
The Riverhead News-Review held its annual People of the Year reception this week, honoring those who were selected in our first issue of the new year.
You can read more about our 2012 People of the Year by clicking on the links below:
During the pregame huddle before an early season game this fall, McGann-Mercy football coach Jeff Doroski gathered his players to deliver a message. Before him stood a group of players expected to finish near the bottom of Division IV — an all-too-familar destination for the Monarchs.
We’ve been down for a long time, Mr. Doroski told his team. No one believes Mercy is a team that can contend.
And Mr. Doroski posed a question to his team: Why not us?
Believe in your teammates, he said. Believe in your coaches. Trust the hard work you’ve put in.
“You get chills when you hear him speak sometimes,” said Phil Reed, an assistant coach at Mercy. “You feel like you want to put on a uniform and go out and play for him. I don’t know how he does it, but he just comes up with these things.”
Under Doroski’s leadership, in only his second season as Mercy’s head coach, the Monarchs surged to their most memorable fall in three decades, posting seven wins, advancing to the semifinals of the Division IV playoffs and captivating the close-knit Riverhead school.
For his efforts in turning Mercy’s football program around, while also working as a well-respected health and physical education teacher and volunteering his time at a bevy of school functions, the News-Review selected Mr. Doroski as its 2012 Educator of the Year.
McGann-Mercy is a second home for Mr. Doroski. His parents both attended Mercy. So did his wife. As a high school student, he was the featured running back for the Monarchs. After graduating in 1992 he owned the single-season and career rushing records.
It was back when Mr. Doroski carried the ball for Mercy that the Monarchs last had a season comparable to this year. When the Monarchs won an epic 22-21 playoff game over Hampton Bays in November, it was the first postseason win for the program since 1991. The seven wins matched their best season since 1978.
“He’s a big part of continuing the tradition of excellence at Mercy because he’s been through it,” said athletic director John Lonardo. “He’s very aware of that and that’s something he really brings to the kids and reinforces to the kids about what McGann-Mercy stands for and the tradition of McGann-Mercy.”
In addition to coaching the varsity football team, Mr. Doroski, 38, also coaches the junior varsity baseball team in the spring. When it comes to baseball, he is a bit of a legend. In 2003 he coached the varsity team to a state championship, the only state title for any team in Mercy history.
No matter the time of year, Mr. Doroski, who lives in Riverhead, can be spotted at Mercy long after the school day has ended. In the winter he works the scoreboard during basketball games. He also monitors the weight room.
“Jeff has an outstanding rapport with the students,” Mr. Lonardo said. “He’s extremely liked. He communicates very well with the kids. He’s extremely motivational. The kids not only enjoy his classes, but they enjoy playing for him.”
When Mr. Doroski became the varsity football head coach, numbers were dwindling in the program. Former athletic director Paula Nickerson said in 2011 that it was a “miracle” the program survived during some of the leanest years.
Mr. Doroski helped rejuvenate interest in football and this past season the Monarchs had the kind of depth that allowed them to not only stay competitive, but excel.
“You could see from day one when he took over the program that the kids responded to him,” Phil Reed said. “The way he wanted to set the program up and it’s grown from leaps and bounds from when he started.”
As a teacher in a small school, Mr. Doroski gets an opportunity to work with many of his athletes in the classroom as well. Asaiah Wilson, the football team’s junior quarterback, had Mr. Doroski as a health teacher last year and as a gym teacher this year.
Mr. Wilson said Mr. Doroski’s demeanor as a coach and teacher is very similar.
“He wants us to work hard,” he said. “If we got a 99, he wants us to ask why we didn’t get 100.”
The quarterback position was something Wilson had little experience in before this season. He had played in PAL leagues during his youth, but never anything close to being a varsity quarterback.
Mr. Doroski was instrumental in helping him learn the position and encourage him along the way, even when things were tough, Mr. Wilson said.
“He guided me through everything,” he said. “Reading defenses, switching plays at the line, he guided me through all that. Sometimes I would get down on myself and he’ll pick my head up.”
Patience is one of Mr. Doroski’s greatest strengths, according to Mr. Reed.
“He’s not an excitable guy,” said the assistant coach, who also coaches varsity boys basketball at Southold. “He can be loud when he wants to be but when it comes to the games he has nice level confidence about himself in order to make the right decision.”
After the Monarchs improved 5-0 in October, Mr. Doroski was selected for the New York Jets’ High School Coach of the Week award.
“He’s been one of the best coaches I’ve been able to work with and I’ve been coaching for a long time,” Mr. Reed said. “He’s just a wonderful person to be around.”
SUFFOLK COUNTY DIVISION IV SEMIFINAL | PANTHERS 49, MONARCHS 12
When it comes to Suffolk County Division IV football, Babylon is the benchmark. With some exceptions mixed in here and there, it has been that way for a long time.
The record speaks for itself. Over the course of its proud history, Babylon has won four Long Island championships and eight county crowns. The Panthers have played in 18 county finals in 20 years. Appearances in county finals this time of the year have become the norm for Babylon.
“We want to do it for the people who wore the jersey before us,” Babylon quarterback Nick Santorelli said. “Every year in, year out, we hold ourselves to that high standard. There’s no other Babylon. We’re Babylon. That’s who we are.”
Undefeated Babylon was a winner once again on Saturday, this time at the expense of Bishop McGann-Mercy. Santorelli threw for two touchdowns and ran for another two as top-seeded Babylon rolled to a 49-12 win in a Division IV semifinal on its home field. The Panthers (10-0) will play No. 2 Mount Sinai (9-1) in the county final next weekend at Stony Brook University.
The defeat brought an end to McGann-Mercy’s most successful season in decades. No. 5 McGann-Mercy (7-3), which was seeded 12th in a preseason coaches poll, was coming off a thrilling first-round upset of Hampton Bays. McGann-Mercy’s first playoff win since 1991 gave the Monarchs seven wins on the season, their highest total since 1978.
“We’re excited about what we did this year,” said Jeff Doroski, who is in his second year as McGann-Mercy’s head coach. “I’m going to tell these guys and continue to tell them they’ve done great things for Mercy football. They put us back on the map. They generated a buzz and excitement among our school community. … I really couldn’t be more proud of this group.”
Bishop McGann-Mercy wideout Christian Reyes said: “This season’s been great. It’s a total turnaround from the last couple of years. This is, I think, our best season ever.”
As one might have expected, heavily favored Babylon took a lot of the suspense out of the game early, surging to a 22-0 lead in the opening 7 minutes 24 seconds and holding a commanding 42-6 advantage by halftime.
“We came out pumped up, and we just beat them right from the start,” said Babylon running back/linebacker Eric Schweitzer.
The game’s first play from scrimmage resulted in a Babylon touchdown. Santorelli lofted a pass down the left side that Schweitzer collected for a 65-yard connection 17 seconds into the game.
Santorelli completed all three of his passes, two for touchdowns. The other touchdown pass was a 31-yarder to Jake Carlock.
Luke Zappia ran for another two Babylon touchdowns, and Schweitzer produced one himself. Schweitzer had 112 yards from 12 carries.
Babylon’s defense was dominant, holding McGann-Mercy to only one first down and 91 yards of offense. The Monarchs went 0 for 8 on third-down conversion attempts and 0 for 3 on fourth downs.
The first McGann-Mercy touchdown, with 4:19 left in the first quarter, came on a strange play. Tom Kent of McGann-Mercy received Alex Malhas’ kickoff and carried the ball forward before fumbling. Reyes collected the bouncing ball around the McGann-Mercy 40-yard line and ran it in for a touchdown.
McGann-Mercy’s second touchdown came with 6:58 left in the third quarter. Reggie Archer broke through the middle and tore 66 yards for the score.
The McGann-Mercy defense was led by Jack Strnad (seven solo tackles, three assisted) and Pat Marelli (seven solo tackles, two assisted).
McGann-Mercy might be the surprise team of Division IV this year, but Babylon wasn’t about to overlook the Monarchs.
“We don’t really care about their name, who they are or where they’re from,” Santorelli said. “We just play like it’s any other game. We play like it’s Sinai, like it’s Glenn. We just went out there and gave it everything we got. We didn’t take them lightly at all.”
Babylon overcame a 13-0 halftime deficit to defeat Mount Sinai, 22-16, during the regular season. The Panthers are two wins away from becoming the first Babylon team to go undefeated in a season since the 2002 team went 11-0.
“I told these kids they could be immortal,” said Rick Punzone, whose 10-year record as Babylon’s coach is 85-19 (.817). “You know, you’re 12 and 0, who knows? You could go down as one of the best teams in Babylon history.”
What was the best thing to come out of this season for the Monarchs?
Doroski answered, “The best thing is the memories that these guys will have for the rest of their life.”
DIVISION IV PLAYOFFS | MONARCHS 22, BAYMEN 21
McGann-Mercy head coach Jeff Doroski is no stranger to Long Island football. He’s coached with the big dogs like Longwood and Riverhead. He’s coached in a Long Island championship.
Still, few games in his career could match what unfolded Saturday afternoon against Hampton Bays in the first round of the Division IV playoffs.
“This is one of the best football games I’ve ever been a part of,” Doroski said.
The underdog Monarchs, a team no one gave any thought to at the beginning of the season, pulled of a stunning 22-21 Division IV victory, the first playoff win for the program since 1991. It was the seventh win of the season for the fifth-seeded Monarchs, a total they haven’t matched since 1978.
And they did it with one final defensive play to seal the win.
In a back-and-forth game where the offenses came to life in the fourth quarter, the Baymen scored on a 30-yard pass play with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter. It cut the Monarchs’ lead to one at 22-21. The Baymen, who converted an extra point kick and a two-point conversion in the game, only needed to kick the point after to be likely headed to overtime.
Instead, they went for the win.
Quarterback Justin Carbone doubles as the Baymen’s kicker. He lined up as if they Baymen would kick, but instead they snapped the ball directly to Carbone.
It was the same play the Baymen had successfully used after their previous touchdown.
Only this time, the Monarchs were ready.
Carbone rolled out looking to pass. But the Monarchs stayed disciplined on defense and didn’t allow any receivers to spring free. Carbone had to try to run it in but couldn’t reach the end zone before getting tackled by the Mercy defense, effectively sealing the victory for the Monarchs.
“We were a little bit surprised that they didn’t kick to tie it to go into overtime,” Doroski said. “But we were prepared for the two-point conversion. We’ve watched them on film and they’ve run a couple two-point conversions from that spot.”
The win sends the Monarchs into the semifinals next weekend against No. 1 Babylon, one of only two undefeated teams left in Suffolk County along with Sayville in Division III.
The Monarchs admittedly felt like the underdogs going into Saturday’s game. Hampton Bays (6-3) was coming off a hard-fought game against Mount Sinai (the No. 2 seed in the division) while the Monarchs got beaten up by East Hampton (the No. 8 seed).
“Some people looked at us and said it’s nice, those guys had a good season, but they’re going to be one and done in the playoffs,” Doroski said.
The Monarchs took a different approach.
“We thought we could play with anybody,” Doroski said. “We went into today and said, “Why not us?’ ”
The Monarchs got huge performances on the ground from halfback Tom Kent and quarterback Asaiah Wilson. Kent rushed for 131 yards and the deciding touchdown. He scored on an eight-yard run with 3:10 left in the fourth quarter to make it a 20-15 game. The Monarchs went for two to try to extend the lead to seven and Wilson ran the ball into the end zone.
Halfback Reggie Archer, who got most of the carries this season, missed the team’s final game of the regular season with an injury. While he was back Saturday, the Monarchs had him focus more on defense and left the running game to Kent and Wilson. Archer had eight carries for only 11 yards.
“Kent played out of his mind,” Doroski said. “He ran the ball really well.”
Wilson had a season-high 16 carries and rushed for 79 yards. He scored the Monarchs’ first two touchdowns on one-yard runs.
“His development over the course of the year has been fantastic,” Doroski said. “This game really was his best game we’ve seen him play. He ran the ball very hard today, he made big plays when we needed him to.”
All season Doroski was waiting and hoping to see his team put together a complete effort from start to finish.
It took until Nov. 10, but it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Now the Monarchs will still be playing football the weekend before Thanksgiving, which normally is the date for the county finals.
“It’s kind of a dream season,” Doroski said. “You can’t script it. We have exceeded our expectations.”
McGann-Mercy football coach Jeff Doroski was selected for the New York Jets High School Coach of the Week Award, the team announced Friday.
Doroski will receive $1,000 to benefit the football program as well as a certificate from the Jets.
In his second season as the head coach of Mercy, Doroski has guided the Monarchs to a 5-1 start. Mercy was 5-0 for the first time since 1976 before falling to Shoreham-Wading River Friday night.
The Monarchs, a preseason No. 12 seed, are currently in sixth place in the Division IV power rankings. Four other teams have identical 5-1 records. One of those teams, The Stony Brook School, will host the Monarchs this Friday in a pivotal D-IV game. The Monarchs will need a win to have a shot at snagging one of the top four seeds in the playoffs to earn a home game.
Click here to read the official announcement on Doroski’s Coach of the Week Award.
MONARCHS 21, ROYALS 7
Early in the second quarter Saturday afternoon at Port Jefferson, the McGann-Mercy Monarchs found themselves in an unusual position: trailing by a touchdown.
Through the first half of the Division IV schedule, the Monarchs only trailed once, by one point in the second half against Greenport last week. The Monarchs came back to win that game, 12-7.
“It didn’t affect our kids, it didn’t affect the game plan,” said Mercy coach Jeff Doroski. “We got right back after it.”
The Monarchs answered Port Jefferson’s first quarter touchdown with 21 straight points to win the game 21-7. Mercy, a preseason No. 12 seed, improved to 5-0 and all but guaranteed itself a spot in the postseason.
Sophomore Reggie Archer scored on a pair of long touchdown runs. He broke an 88-yard run on a stretch play to the right side behind the blocks of Paolo Foscolo and Bryan Murray for his first score that tied the game.
“He has deceiving speed I call it,” Doroski said. “He doesn’t look very fast, but nobody catches him. When you’re running for 88 and 66 yards and guys have a chance to track you down and they don’t, that says something about what he’s doing for us.”
Archer capped the scoring for Mercy with a 66-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and he finished the day with 178 yards on 18 carries.
“We put a lot on his plate as a sophomore and he’s only going to get better,” Doroski said.
The Royals (1-4) jumped ahead on Mercy with an 81-yard touchdown from Paul Cavanagh in the first quarter. Doroski took the blame, saying he had the defense in the wrong position.
“We buckled down after that,” he said. “Asides from giving up the big run, we really kind of contained them for the rest of the game.”
Mercy quarterback Asaiah Wilson scored on a two-yard run to give the Monarchs a 14-7 lead at halftime.
It wasn’t a perfect performance from the Monarchs. Doroski said they failed to convert inside the red zone four times.
“At some point we got to put a full game together,” he said. “We were pretty mistake free today, we didn’t have too many penalties, but we just didn’t execute in the red zone when we needed to.”
The Monarchs will have their hands full next week when they return home to face 4-1 Shoreham-Wading River. The only loss for the Wildcats this season came against Mount Sinai, one of the top teams in the division.
MONARCHS 12, PORTERS 7
These Monarchs have pride, and for good reason.
Bishop McGann-Mercy is off to one of the greatest starts in the football team’s history. Indeed, these are heady times for the Riverhead Catholic school. The Monarchs, who were seeded 12th in Suffolk County Division IV in a preseason coaches poll, brought their record to 4-0 on Saturday with a 12-7 homecoming win over Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island at Harold T. Murray Memorial Field.
“Mercy football, 4 and 0!” said Asaiah Wilson, who played quarterback and safety for McGann-Mercy. Wilson went so far as to proclaim this the “best team in Mercy history.”
McGann-Mercy coach Jeff Doroski said he did not know if the Monarchs had ever won their first four games in a season before. “We’re playing much more physical than we’ve ever played before,” he said. “We’re excited about what’s happening here.”
If the Monarchs were looking for an easy time against Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island (0-4), it wasn’t happening. For one thing, it’s a rivalry game, and the Porters played what was easily their best game of the season.
McGann-Mercy can credit its defense for holding on during crunch time. After forcing McGann-Mercy to punt — and benefitting from a couple of penalties in the process — the Porters took possession at the Monarchs’ 40-yard line with 3 minutes 11 seconds to go in the game and the score 12-7. They reached the 16 before being stopped on a fourth-down play in which Eugene Allen absorbed a powerful initial hit by Wilson before being brought down by Ray Ellis for no gain. By holding the Porters several inches short of a first down, McGann-Mercy was able to run off four plays and the remaining time in the game.
“We lost basically by four inches,” said Allen, a junior who made his first start at quarterback. “We gave it all we can, just four inches. It was our game if we just made that one play.”
A controversial pass interference call against Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island also had a big impact. The call came in the third quarter, negating an interception by Jack Volinski and allowing McGann-Mercy to retain possession. Two plays later, Wilson took the ball 10 yards on a quarterback sneak for a touchdown that made the score 12-0 with 1:39 left in the third quarter.
“That might have been the game,” Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island coach Jack Martilotta said. “I talked to the official about it. I have no clue why he called that.”
Wilson (7 of 16, 139 yards), a junior transfer from Longwood, was also involved in McGann-Mercy’s first touchdown. He flipped a screen pass to Reggie Archer for a 37-yard touchdown completion in the second quarter.
Archer had a productive running game as well. Traversing a muddy, slick field that made it hard to get traction, the sophomore accumulated 122 yards from 29 carries.
A promising 11-play, 65-yard drive by McGann-Mercy reached the Porters’ 7-yard line. But the Monarchs came away empty-handed on the final play of the first half when Ed Kneski’s 35-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Timmy Stevens.
Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island got on the scoreboard with 7:42 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Porters capped a 16-play drive with a three-yard touchdown run by Allen, making it a one-score game.
Allen is a playmaker, and that was the Porters’ thinking in going with him at quarterback instead of Matt Drinkwater, who had started the first three games at that position.
“We’re trying to get the ball in his hands as much as we can,” Martilotta said. “Drinkwater was doing well, but we feel [Allen] gives us a better chance to win. He’s quite an athlete. He made a couple of things happen today.”
Allen completed his last eight passes, going 10 of 11 for 104 yards. He said he took his first snaps as a quarterback since he was a freshman, and had not worked on his passing since mini camp over the summer. But he said he was confident. “I think if I had to, I can play any position on the field,” he said.
Allen took his share of hits from a McGann-Mercy defense that was a tough nut to crack. Pat Marelli made a game-high eight tackles, including one of the Monarchs’ six sacks.
Instead of their first win, the Porters dropped their ninth straight loss dating back to last year.
“It hurts,” Martilotta said. He added, “If we got that first down right there [near the end of the game], we’d be having a different interview right now.”
Meanwhile, these are happy times at McGann-Mercy, where the school is abuzz about what its football team has been doing. The Monarchs started the day in third place. Who knows where they will end up by the time the regular season ends? At this point, it looks like a safe bet that the Monarchs will be making their first playoff appearance since 2007. Their remaining games are against Port Jefferson, Shoreham-Wading River, The Stony Brook School and East Hampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but something like this, I’m just shocked,” Wilson said. “I’m overwhelmed.”
What happens when friends coach against each other?
What else? A fight breaks out.
They had been in the same huddle before as teammates and on the same football sideline before as coaches, but Friday night marked a first for both Jeff Doroski and Steve Failla. For the first time, they faced each other on opposing sidelines as head coaches, Doroski of the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs and Failla of the Center Moriches Red Devils.
The game must have prompted mixed emotions for coaches on both staffs. Failla was the best man at Doroski’s wedding and is the godfather to Doroski’s son. Not only that, but they were both teammates at Mercy, as was one of the Center Moriches assistant coaches, Craig Rupprecht. All three are Mercy Class of 1992 graduates. On top of all of that, Failla and Rupprecht are both former Monarchs coaches themselves.
And, as if that story line isn’t tangled enough, a McGann-Mercy assistant coach, Phil Lombardi, is a another former Mercy player who had served as a Center Moriches assistant coach for five years before coming to the Monarchs this year.
Finally, to add even more spice to the season-opening Suffolk County Division IV game at Center Moriches High School, it just happened to be Doroski’s debut as a varsity head coach.
“Me, Steve and Craig, we go back a long ways,” Doroski said. “Yeah, we’re close. We go to barbecues at each other’s house, and they’ll be at my daughter’s baptism in two weeks and stuff like that.”
No doubt, there will be some talk during that occasion about what happened on Friday night. Myles Bell ran for touchdowns on his first two carries as Center Moriches rolled, 32-14, spoiling Doroski’s debut. The game was interrupted for about 20 minutes when a fight broke out 4:22 into the third quarter. Coaches rushed on to the field to separate players. A game official took a fall during the flurry and was quickly helped to his feet by McGann-Mercy’s Pat Stepnoski. After order was restored, Jack Strnad of McGann-Mercy and Wayne Harris of Center Moriches were ejected. The ejections carry automatic one-game suspensions.
Stepnoski said he wasn’t sure what prompted the fists to fly.
“I just turned around, and there was a big group of everybody fighting,” he said. “It kept going and going and going. I didn’t know what was happening.”
Failla said: “I couldn’t tell you who hit who and how it started, but everyone’s got to walk away, and our guy certainly didn’t walk away. They got learn, it’s a selfish act in an unselfish game that’s very unforgiving.”
Similarly, Doroski voiced his disapproval of the fisticuffs.
“It’s just frustrations got out of hand,” he said. “You never want to see anything like that. We just reacted to something that we don’t need to react to. We’re better than that. We represent something else out here, and that’s not what we represent.”
Both teams will feel the absence of those players. Strnad is a starting guard and defensive end. Harris plays running back and linebacker.
In addition to Bell’s two touchdown runs, Harris and Patrick Teich both ran for Center Moriches touchdowns as well. Another Red Devils score came through the air, an 18-yard connection from Jeff Foster to Nuquan Mathis.
Bell wove and sped his way to 111 yards on 10 carries, including runs of five and 28 yards that brought him into the end zone.
“I try my hardest every game, and whatever God gives me, it is what it is,” he said.
A four-year varsity starter, Bell is an undoubted talent.
“Myles is a special athlete,” Failla said. “He can accelerate on a dime, and he’s got nice vision. It seems like he cuts so fluidly, his hips never move.”
McGann-Mercy has a back who can run well, too. Stepnoski scored both of McGann-Mercy’s touchdowns in addition to making a team-leading nine tackles and recovering a fumble.
The Monarchs fell behind by 19-0 in the opening 14:32, but didn’t quit. On the final play of the first half, Keith Schroeher (8 of 18, 120 yards) lofted a pass down the right sideline that Stepnoski ran under, collected and kept running until he reached the end zone, 78 yards away.
Stepnoski also brought the Monarchs their second touchdown in the third quarter when he burst through for a 32-yard scoring run on a fourth-and-three play. Drew Rajotte’s extra point cut Center Moriches’ lead to 26-14.
The bulk of McGann-Mercy’s offense came from Stepnoski’s three receptions, 98 of the team’s 159 yards of total offense. The Monarchs had difficulty moving the ball, generating only two first downs, 39 rushing yards and converting two of 11 third-down plays.
But the Monarchs showed fight (in more ways than one).
“We don’t give up,” Stepnoski said. “We fought all the way until the end, even though it was not the closest score in the world. We didn’t give up, and that was heartening to see.”
Failla said: “They were outgunned, and they kept fighting. Nobody told them that they were outgunned.”
For three hours, Doroski and Failla had to put their friendship aside and focus on the task at hand.
“You’re trying to win a football game, you know,” Doroski said. “We work with these kids all year long. You want what’s best for them, obviously. He’s doing what’s best for his kids, I’m trying to do what’s best for my kids, and we go from there.”
Now that this game is out of the way, Failla said, Doroski and him can “go back to being friends.”